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A Double Thread: Growing Up English and Jewish in London Hardcover – March 6, 2002
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Beautifully written and deeply moving. (Hilton Kramer)
Intelligent, humane, highly civilized...the voice we hear not only holds our attention but also wins our affection and respect. (Los Angeles Times)
A very beautiful and valuable book. (Oliver Sacks)
Incisive.... Mr. Gross's voice―demure, measured, if at times overly cautious―is strikingly unique and unusually trustworthy. (The Wall Street Journal)
Remarkably readable and entertaining. (Antonia Fraser)
Extraordinary riches are crammed into this short book. (Susan Hill)
Captivating and finely instructive. Written with grace and lucidity. (Robert Alter)
Subtle and deeply satisfying to read. (Michael Holroyd)
A wonderfully evocative account of growing up in London's Jewish East End. (Daniel Bell)
A delightful memoir of life to the age of 18 in London before, during, and after World War II. (The New York Times)
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Top Customer Reviews
For me, one of Gross's most powerful qualities is his modesty (almost self-deprecation) as his memoir proceeds through such volatile times. For example, on the matter of anti-Semitism, he observes that "to have had a religious upbringing at least assures that in your own mind you are a Jew first, and the object of other people's dislike second." Young Gross seems to have been spared the ordeal of what other Jews his age experienced during the Third Reich. With regard to his own faith, "for many Jews, whatever the larger historical balance sheet, anti-Semitism is the heart of the matter, the only significant reason why they still feel Jewish." I was also deeply moved by his portrayal of his father, Avraham ben Oser, who became a doctor. The adult Gross very closely resembles that wise and generous man. It is not so much that father and son tolerate anti-Semitism; rather, that they absorb it and thereby deprive it of any legitimacy.
Frequently as I read this book, I wondered what their conversations would have discussed had young Andras Grof emigrated to London rather than to New York and become friends with young Gross. (Grof changed his name to Grove and later served as CEO of Intel Corporation. I highly recommend his own memoir, Swimming Across.Read more ›
Strongly influenced by his father, a doctor who continued to practise in the East End when others quickly sought out greener pastures, Gross's memoir of his formative years has both balance and originality. He is wholly comfortable in using Yiddish words when his peers would chose to eschew this 'strange' language lest it mark them out as being different from the herd.
For all that, the author won a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford, and went on to become a distinguished literary critic. The paragraph on retracing roots in Hackney with Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser was touching whilst there are a sprinkling of amusing anecdotes.
The book is a snapshot in time which will be read with even greater interest as the years roll by.
Gross has a pleasant, low-key style and, it seemed to me, a realistic take on childhood and its memories.